South Africans have marked Women’s Day with rallies and ceremonies across the country to celebrate the role women have played in society, but also to note the violence and economic hardship that many women still experience.

President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the keynote address in Paarl in the Western Cape. He called on society to take a strong stance against gender-based violence.

“There is a real danger that because violence against women has become so pervasive, society is gradually becoming unmoved and has stopped seeing it as an unacceptable and abhorrent practice. Instead of being outraged, there is a weary acceptance that this is the norm.”

At Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, EFF leader Julius Malema called for communities to stop protecting rapists. His comment comes after the funeral of 23-year-old Khensani Maseko on Thursday.

The Rhodes University Law student reportedly committed suicide at the weekend after accusing her boyfriend of raping her in May.

“You are a rapist; whether your rape was reported or not, and you know that deep down in your heart. Your conscience tells you that you are a rapist. Rapists are not only in jail; some of them were charged and they won cases, but it doesn’t mean they are not rapists. What have we become, South Africa … where even children rape their mothers and grandmothers? What amount of hatred do you have of yourself? Because when you rape your grandmother it is self-hate.”

In Gauteng, Premier David Makhura said women are still far from being truly emancipated. He spoke at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

“We must raise our boys in a way that they understand they are equal; men and women are equal! We, parents, are not doing our job. We have to raise our children in a way (that) they must share responsibilities. At home, they must share responsibilities. We must drum it in their heads; to abuse a woman is a crime.”

Minister of Women and Children Bathabile Dlamini has  also called on institutions of higher learning to develop policies to protect and support female students on campuses.

“There is no way our kids are going to be raped, and see the rapist sitting next to them, sharing the same passages; sharing the same lecture rooms, and ending up not going to court. Because of a long process that you have to go through, you have to start at the institution first before you go out.”

The DA Women’s Network commemorated Women’s Day in Pietermaritzburg. Provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango says even though women qualify for jobs, males who occupy senior positions are still asking for sex before employing women.

“Children, today, can’t even walk freely outside because men of today are like animals. They abuse children. We are saying we need to protect our communities; we need to protect our women. We need to protect our children.”